Here is the short story I promised for Halloween

DIR AND THE HOWLERS

Fara sat on the edge of the dimly lit stage at the Boneyard Arts and Cultural Center snapping her bare thigh with the twig. A welt reddened below the hem of her white frock and one of her flip flops fell to the floor. “I won’t, I won’t, I won’t!”

Mitzie loped onto the stage, stopped to sniff her hair, and then sat down beside her. “Won’t what, Fara?”

“I won’t fix the lights.”

“You have to. The electrician from Green River just got here. He’s checking things out, but you know how slow those stegs work.”

Fara swiped at her thigh; each stroke of her hand lightening the welt. “No, I don’t have to. He should have called the Flying Dino. He promised day service.” She looked up at the black cans with their dull globes above the stage. “We would have lights by now.”

“I’ll fix the lights!” A man, once young, but now forty going on something, stamped onto the stage. His hiking boots sounded like drum beats on the wood. He had a blueprint in his hands. “Steg has his plates full with the sound. It’s not working either. That’s why I called him.” He paused. “I’ll fix the lights.”

“If you don’t, we’ll be just like radio, voices in the dark,” Fara said.

The young man tramped off the stage brustling the blueprint. “Stop worrying. I’ll figure it out.”

Fara sighed. “Look what I did. I tore my new frock and I lost a flip flop. It’s in the pit.” She pointed with the twig, and the thong lit up. “See.”

“I’ll get it.” Mitzie scampered down the stage steps and came back up with a rainbow-colored flip flop in her mouth. She dropped it by Fara’s hand. “Here you are.”

Sniffling, Fara hooked the thong between her toes. “I should have refused to go to the bonfire. I just should have.”

Arching her back, Mitzie scratched her ear with her hind foot. “But we really do well there except I always get the fleas.”

“You and the rest of the Howlers,” Fara said, grimacing. “Scratching, scratching…”

“It gives us a sexy vibe though, the way the tails thump. I like it.”

“We’re a rock band, Mitzie.”

Mitzie lowered her foot and plopped down on her elbows. “I’m just sayin’.”

Rising to her feet. Fara swayed from side to side. “I should have put the twig down. No more bonfires, not in the desert. The equipment gets all dirty, the bus gets all dirty. It’s too hot and it’s too freaky.”

Mitzie grinned, her tongue lolling. “Too freaky, what?”

The young man stumped back onto the stage with an electrician’s tool pouch on his hip. “The bus gets dirty, the wolves run off into the hills, the audience pays us with weed.”

“Well that’s something,” Fara said, reaching to adjust the collar of his safari shirt. “It’s legal now. You could have sold it. You didn’t have to throw it on the fire.”

“Wasn’t it a fire festival? Wasn’t it your idea first? Goddess?”

“Yes!” Fara clapped her hands to her hips. “For the nostalgia, for the naked people all blue and yellow and red, so retro, so primordial, dancing around a bonfire at night, home, home…”

“So not insolvent,” the young man said, buttoning a loose flap on his cargo shorts. “We had barely made expenses before we got there.”

“Except you burnt up the gate.”

“There’s that part.”

“For once, and just once, I don’t care,” Fara said, grabbing the front of his shirt. “But you didn’t have to get all blue and dance with them. You didn’t have to throw the weed on the fire to impress that Celtic witch, did you, did you?”

The young man took her hands with his. “It seemed like a good idea. Smoke wafting over the crowd.”

“But we didn’t get paid,” Fara said, levering his hands away. “Except from those block chain freaks. Now we’re broke and stuck, God knows where.”

Dir, the lead guitarist for Dir and the Howlers, loped onto the stage, stopped to sniff Mitzie, and then sank down beside her with his tongue hanging out. “The Boneyard Arts and Cultural Center, only five miles from where the Green and Yampa rivers meet. I saw a sign.”

“The Boneyard National Monument, where fossil hunting is not permitted,” Fara said. “Where we’ll get paid in bison bones from South Dakota, if we get paid at all.”

“So, I got it wrong. We can’t go looking for dinosaur bones, but there’s always the treasure.”

“The treasure hidden in the rocks by the Hole in the Wall Gang? The treasure of the Outlaw Trail? Oh my, sure. People have been hunting it for a hundred and thirty years. No one has ever found anything but rusty peach cans.”

The young man stretched himself to his full height. “It’s out there, I can feel it—a chest of 20-dollar golden eagles. It’s still in these rocks.” He jabbed at Fara with his finger. “I’ll find it!”

“Find a ladder first, okay?”

“Oh, right, I’m on it,” the young man said, marching off the stage. Dir trotted behind him with his tail wagging.

“Of all the young men I could have picked these thousand years, I pick an optimist! An optimist! Gah!” Fara put her thumb to her mouth and rocked it. “Next thing you know he’ll be claiming he’s found Viking runes. Gah!”

Mitzie lay down and put her head on her paws. “The only rune I want to see is Yellowstone next stop. I am done with this life. For a wolf, I’m old.”

“Well, not too old,” Fara said.

Mitzie raised her head. “No, guess not.”

“Have you told Dir?”

“I’m waiting for the right moment.”

“Like the next time the bus breaks down?”

Suddenly the stage filled with light. A spotlight circled Fara. A microphone hummed, and an F sharp rang through the auditorium.

“Is that you, Dir?” Mitzie bayed.

Dir pranced onto the stage with a Stratocaster in his teeth, set it down, and stood on his back feet. “No, that’s a Gibson. I only play Fender.”

“Oh, god!”

“It’s true, Fara.”

“Yah!” hirling behind him, Fara dropped her arm and belted. “Rock me!”

The young man marched onto the stage with a Les Paul above his head. “Victory over the evil circuit breakers! There will be rock in our time!”

Fara slowed, letting the light flow over her shoulders like water. “An optimist.”

“Well, he should scavenge more,” Mitzie said.

Dir dropped to his front feet, sniffed his guitar, and growled. “Something’s wrong with my axe.”

“Still?” the young man asked. “I fixed the pre-amp.”

“It’s dead.”

The young man set his guitar on a stand. “Maybe it’s the pickup?”

“It’s not the pickup,” Fara said.

“Why couldn’t you just tell me that?”

“Would that be fair to you?”

The young man sighed. “I’m a goddess, you’re not.”

“Which one, sweetheart?” Fara said, twirling. “There are hundreds.”

“Just wave the twig over the Stratocaster, will you?”

“No.”

“Please?”

“No, I never have and I won’t now. We should not have gone to the desert.”

“I said I was sorry.”

“That’s not enough.” Fara pouted with her arms clasped. “Just not enough.”

The young man threw up his hands. “What’s enough?”

Clapping her hands to her face, Fara bowed her head. “I don’t know!”

The young man let his hands fall to his sides. “It didn’t mean anything.”

Fara snapped her fists to her hips. “That doesn’t help!”

“The twig, please?”

Fara hid the twig under her arm. “No.”

“We shouldn’t have gone to the desert. We shouldn’t have gone to the bonfire,” the young man said. “We paid for our last tour there.”

Fara snapped the twig at the stage. Red, yellow, and blue flowers sprang up. “And now we’re stuck here with Tee and the Rexi opening. God, such cold-blooded riffs!” She lashed the twig left and right. Trees came into leaf. Birds perched on the limbs, singing. “I can’t stand it.”

“Cold-blooded should draw a crowd out here.”

“As long as the sun is shining,” Dir whined.

“It’s shining.”

“And when it isn’t?”

“Wolves go out to howl.” The young man lifted the Stratocaster by the neck. “Or have you been on the bus too long?”

“Maybe, but I still need a guitar,” Dir said, rising.

“It worked yesterday.”

“It won’t today.”

The young man flipped the Stratocaster onto his shoulder. “Give the problem to me, like always. I’ll fix it, like always! Like always! No one cares. Just fix it, fix it. Not this time.” He shoved the guitar into Dir’s paws. “You fix it! You shred it, smash it, eat it, I don’t care. For once, I don’t care. God, just a roll in the ashes to fit in, to fit in!”

Fara sighed. The flowers, trees, and birds faded into the blackness offstage. “I forgive you.”

“You do?”

“Yes.”

“And I care,” Mitzie said. “The Howlers care, even Tee and the Rexi care.”

“Where would we be without rock?” Dir said.

“In the tar,” Mitzie said.

“I’m sorry, Fara, I lost my focus,” the young man said. “The lost treasure of the Outlaw Trail, Viking runes. I’ll fix the guitar.”

Whirling toward him, Fara wrapped her arm around his shoulders, but kept the twig to her breast. “That’s my guy. Taking charge, keeping a level head no matter what. The guy I found at La Brea one beautiful sun-struck day.”

“We were so happy to shake the tar off,” Mitzie said. “We were all dancing and singing. I remember, I remember.”

The young man took the guitar from Dir and opened the latch by the jack. “Did you change the battery?”

Dir raised his left paw. “Without a thumb?”

“Oh, right.” Clutching the guitar to his chest, the young man strode off the stage. “I’ll take care of this priceless treasure.”

“That’s my guy,” Fara said.

Dropping to the floor, Dir rubbed his head against her leg. “Should I tell him I got it in a pawn shop in Vegas?”

“No, don’t. He’s tired of the road.”

Mitzie stretched on all fours and then lay down on the stage. “I’m tired too.”

“You lay around all day and howl all night?” Dir said. “How could you be tired?”

“I’m expecting.”

“Expecting what?”

Lifting her nose, Mitzie trilled. “Puppies!”

“Puppies?”

“I’m tired of this life.”

“But, but, puppies.”

“Two or three, that’s my guess.”

“You went off the pill?” Dir snarled, with his ears back. “Not even a whimper to me.”

“I want off the road.”

“For what?”

Mitzie crossed her paws. “A cozy den with a view of the falls.”

“Yellowstone?”

“I found the perfect one online. It has columbines all around.”

“I won’t live in a den.”

Springing to her feet, Mitzie raked the planks with her nails. “I won’t raise a litter in the back of a tour bus. I don’t care if it does say DIR and THE HOWLERS on the side. I’ve had enough Day-Glo in my fur!”

“I should have run off with that groupie coyote at the bonfire.”

“Wolves mate for life, Dir.”

“Yellowstone.”

“The young man won’t like this,” Fara said. “You’re breaking up the band.”

“A band without a booking. A band without a cent!”

“I shouldn’t have been so hard on him at the bonfire. I let that red-haired, blue skinned witch blind me, and then I went off, just went off. I don’t want to quit the road.”

“Quit the road?” The young man strutted onto the stage with a guitar held high. “Who’s quitting the road? I found a battery under the front seat of the bus. Listen.” He struck a power chord and notched up the neck. “Tune up and howl, Dir! We’re sold out!”

“We’re Dir and the Howlers!” Fara said. “We will always be!”

The End

©2018 Roger Bradbury

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